Cheesecake isn't difficult to make, but a few tricks will help guarantee great results. For the smoothest texture, have all the ingredients at room temperature, and beat the cream cheese until it's very smooth before mixing in the other ingredients to prevent lumps, serenarobin recommends on Chowhound. Cherylptw uses a food processor to make a smooth batter very quickly.
Baking cheesecakes in a water bath helps them cook evenly, but you must wrap your springform pan in foil to protect the cake from the water. It's worth buying extra-wide, heavy-duty foil for easier, more secure wrapping, chowser says.
As an alternative, Violatp wraps the pan with an insulating collar to ensure even baking. To make it, she lays a double layer of paper towels saturated with cold water over a piece of heavy-duty foil slightly longer than the circumference of the pan, then folds the foil in thirds lengthwise, completely enclosing the paper towels. She then wraps the foil around the pan, crimping the ends together.
To prevent cracking, some hounds leave cheesecakes in the turned-off oven with its door slightly ajar for an hour after they're done baking, so the cakes cool slowly. To avoid overbaking, chowser turns off the oven when the outer third of the cake is set; the residual heat will finish cooking it.
If your cheesecake does crack, don't worry—it's easy to disguise. Just top the cooled cake with fruit, or add a layer of sweetened sour cream and bake briefly, as demonstrated in this CHOW Tip video.
Photo of CHOW's Classic Cheesecake by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com